Inside the life and entertainment career of America's greatest daredevil, who lived “as if his pants were on fire.”
Bestselling author and veteran sports columnist Montville (The Mysterious Montague: A True Tale of Hollywood, Golf, and Armed Robbery, 2008, etc.) points to the first biography of flamboyant risk-taker Robert Craig Knievel (1938–2007) as a cheaply commissioned, “cockeyed” screenplay (George Hamilton starred, angling for a career revival) based on “a collection of tall tales designed by the man himself to make people perk up and pay attention.” It was 1971, and while the film critically tanked, the publicity skyrocketed Knievel’s his popularity. Montville’s version ably describes his childhood raised by his grandparents in depression-era Butte, Mont., and then as a young, street-educated loner and general troublemaker. Greatly entertaining and anecdotal, the narrative covers the controversial aspects of the high flier’s history, tracking Knievel’s fearlessness as record-breaking smaller motorcycle tricks gave way to power-tripping death-wish jumps marked by countless broken bones, hospitalizations and even a coma—all observed by wife Linda and their three children. Whether cruising the talk-show circuit in a zebra-striped leisure suit, crashing onto the pavement at Caesar’s Palace or serving six months in jail for assaulting an event promoter, Knievel consistently treated his adoring (often aghast) fan base to reckless extravaganzas, increasingly perilous stunts and erratic, unbecoming behavior. Montville confidently narrates Knievel’s daredevilry with characteristic panache and presents his subject as a “one man ethical dilemma” who spent the bulk of his career testing the limits of his physical prowess with an unquenchable thirst for fame and fortune.
A biography as sensationalist and superior as the daredevil himself.